Mailinglist Archive: opensuse-project (245 mails)

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Re: [opensuse-project] openSUSE Membership: a general comment
  • From: Roger Whittaker <roger@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 9 Feb 2008 09:55:05 +0000
  • Message-id: <20080209095505.GA10938@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
I hope everyone will forgive me if I reply to my own original mail and
summarise rather than quote certain things that have been said

My motives for starting this thread in the first place were to try to
open up a higher-level discussion about the nature and consequences of
a membership system.

My original points were that "positional power" doesn't sit well with
the open source ethos, and that any wall or boundary separates those
inside it from those outside it. It may tend towards creating
defensiveness from those on the inside and aggression among those on
the outside. It can also create doubt among those on the outside based
on lack of confidence ("am I good enough to join?"). These are
entirely general and, I think inevitable features of any such system,
but I think we've already seen them displayed to a small extent in the
discussion so far.

Benji makes the point that if there is to be a Board, there needs to
be a body that elects that Board, and the membership is the obvious
body to do this. It's not been made clear exactly how this will work,
but Cornelius objects that there is an obvious problem with any system
where a Board is elected by people who have been selected by it. I
think he's right, and I think this is an insuperable problem with the
system as currently proposed / operating.

There are alternatives.

1) Membership open to anyone interested enough to want to be a
member. This is common in voluntary organisations, but the obvious
objection is that there can be "entryism": a group of people with a
particular political agenda all join at the same time to try to
change the aims and direction of the organisation.

2) Membership open to anyone interested enough, but with a hurdle of
some kind to try to prevent the abuses mentioned in (1). For
example a wait of a period of time before membership is granted, a
nominal payment for membership, or (and I think this one is
promising in this case) a wait together with the possibility of a
veto for given reasons (either by members of the Board or a defined
number of other members).

It has been mentioned that having an email address associated with the
project implies that members will be speaking on behalf of the
project, which of course it does. That means that if they say things
that are deemed to be contrary to the guiding principles or code of
conduct, they will have to be disciplined, and, in extreme cases, have
their membership revoked. Hence there will have to be a process for
doing this. I think there are good reasons for concern about the
fallout from any such process, and how this should be handled needs to
be thought through now, rather than when it is too late and damage has
been done.

Roger Whittaker
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